Must see: “Extinction” at the Natural History Museum

What if extinction is not the end of the world? What if mass extinctions are inevitable or extinction is necessary in order for other species to evolve and thrive? Are human beings causing the next mass extinction and if so, what can we do about it?

These are the questions being answered in an excellent new exhibition at the Natural History Museum in South Kensington.  Extinction: Not the End of the World? goes beyond dodos and dinosaurs to explore the crucial role extinction can play in the evolution of life.

Extinction Exhibition - Natura History Museum

The quality of this exhibition is fantastic and this was immediately apparent when we walked through the doors and saw the visual display. Naturally, my photo won’t do it any justice at all but some of the photographs were so good that I felt as if I were inches away from the real thing.

Inside the exhibition, we learned all about extinction. I had not previously realised that there were several mass extinctions in the history of Earth. The most famous is the Cretaceous-Tertiary mass extinction in which the dinosaurs perished but perhaps the most frightening was the Permian mass extinction or “The Great Dying” in which 96% of the world’s species died out.

We learned about background extinction, the correct term for “natural extinction” or the gradual extinction of species over time due to environmental or ecological factors but we also learned that man is speeding up the rate of extinction by contributing to global warming, destroying delicate ecosystems and habitats and mass deforestation.

It was interesting learning that man’s contribution to extinction isn’t necessarily a modern thing and may have occurred in human migration and colonisation hundreds, if not thousands of years ago. In the photo below, you can see the antlers of a Great Irish Elk. The world was once full of great mammals such as the Irish elk, sabre-toothed tiger and woolly mammoth. Man most certainly hunted these animals or in the case of sabre-toothed tiges, hunted their food source.

Great Irish Elk Antlers - Natural History Museum

The exhibition showed the decimation and destruction of the island of Mauritius.  Not only was the dodo destroyed by pests introduced by settlers on the island, but deforestation has occurred in the extreme and the entire ecosystem destroyed. This is why we protect against environmental harm, to prevent a reoccurrence of this sort of harm.

The exhibition featured fantastic exhibits donated by the Metropolitan Police Force and included items that had been confiscated and were illegal. It is simple staggering to see the kinds of items that people trade in, including a fur coat made from a tiger’s skin and a tiny, taxidermyed tiger cub.

Extinction: Not the End of the World? is one of the most thought provoking and interesting exhibitions that I have visited in recent years. Situated in the Jerwood Gallery, Blue Zone of the Natural History Museum, the exhibition is running over the whole summer until 8 September 2013. Tickets are £9 for adults and £4.50 for children and you can finish off a perfect day with a visit to the free dinosaurs gallery across the hall to apply all that you’ve just learned about extinction. This is one exhibition that I would wholeheartedly recommend and it is a great day out.

Watch the trailer for the Extinction: Not the End of the World? below.

I’d like to thank the Natural History Museum for inviting me to the exhibition. I was really happy to go along because this is one of my favourite museums and as always, all opinions herein are my own.

Natural History Museum
Cromwell Road
London SW7 5BD
UK
Tel +44 (0)20 7942 5000 / +44 (0)20 7942 5511
Tube South Kensington

Falling in Love With Mostar

It is little surprise that I haven’t found much time for blogging since my return to London as I’ve been putting the final touches on my project which I will submit this Friday. Nevertheless, I can’t stop talking about Bosnia and telling people how much I loved it and how I want to return there to live and work. I don’t think I can wait any longer and so I thought I’d give you a sneak peek at my time in Mostar.

Mostar was the scene of bitter fighting in the Bosnian War twenty years ago and the bridge that you see in these photos, known as Stari Most or Old Bridge, was bombarded by shells until it finally collapsed into the Neretva River on 9 November 1993. The story of the rebuilding of the bridge is incredible, and a story for another time, but I will tell you that the bridge was reopened on 23 July 2004 and it is amazing how much of the town has been rebuilt in those 9 years (seeing as much of it was still in ruins 9 years ago).

Stari Most from the balcony of Villa Anri

This was the view of Stari Most and Old Town Mostar from the balcony of our hotel, Villa Anri. I gave them a gushing, 5-star review on Trip Advisor so I have no hesitation in linking to them here. This is the sight I woke up to on my 40th birthday and it was amazing.

Koski-Mehmed Pasha's Mosque

This is Koski-Mehmed Pasha's Mosque or Karadjoz-bey in Bosnian. It was severely damaged in the second world war and almost completely destroyed in the Bosnian War. It took me a few days to go from admiring all of the newly built minarets in Mostar to realising why they all had to be rebuilt and it was truly chilling.

Stari Most, Mostar

I took one or two photos of Stari Most during our time in Mostar. The name “Mostar” actually derives from the medieval gatekeepers who guarded the bridge. Most = bridge.

Don't Forget, Mostar

What I loved most about Mostar (apart from the food and the bridge and the people) was the Ottoman feel. It felt like walking through a medieval bazaar with traders peddling luxurious fabrics, priceless trinkets and wares from all over the world.

If you look very carefully on the left hand side, you will see the tiny “don’t forget” sign. That is to remind us that we should never forget the horrors of the war.

War time scars in Mostar

Despite all of the rebuilding in Mostar, there were many, many scars. Many buildings were still cordoned off and had been shelled beyond all repair.

Damaged beyond repair, Mostar

It was another chilling moment when I realised that for all the times I adored ruined castles and championed urban exploration in abandoned buildings, there was nothing fun or exciting or good about any of these. This destruction was manmade and entirely intentional.

The Most Beautiful Town in the World, Mostar

This is an iPhone version of the photo of Stari Most that you have already seen on the blog. I was going to not include it but couldn’t bring myself to do so.

Kriva Cuprija, Mostar

Mostar doesn’t only have one bridge. This is the beautiful Kriva Cuprija or Crooked Bridge. It is really beautiful and the coolness of the water flowing below was such a relief in the hot temperatures.

The devastated remains of the clock tower, Mostar

On our last morning in Mostar, we took a very long walk on the eastern side of Mostar, the side mostly inhabited by Bosniaks. Mostar is still very much a divided town and the eastern side bears far more scars and fewer hotels and bed and breakfasts. It was disturbing and unsettling, to say the least. The 17th century Old Clock Tower still looms over this part of the city but on inspection, you can see that it is but a shell. The inside of this magnificent building has been destroyed.

I adored Mostar and am counting the days until I can return. I don’t think it will be long as we’re already planning a trip to Montenegro or Macedonia via Bosnia next year. Sometimes I need to leave a place before I realise how much I want to return but I knew I loved Mostar the minute I first saw it.

Have you been to Mostar or Bosnia? Did you fall in love too?

Featured Photo: Orlando Towers, Johannesburg

Orlando Towers, Johannesburg

Wherever you are in south-west Johannesburg, you can see the cooling towers of the former Orlando Power Station looming on the horizon. They are perhaps the most prominent, recognisable landmark in Soweto and were painted in bright, vibrant colours once the power station was decommissioned in 1998.

The cooling towers were built in 1951 but construction for the power station began during the Second World War.  The power station once served the whole of Johannesburg.

Nowadays, Orlando Towers is famous for a far more exciting reason. You can catch a lift to the top of the towers and descend by bungee, power swing, base jump or freefall. I’ll tell you all about that madness in another post. On the first day we visited the towers, there was no power because the cables had been stolen. How ironic and how very typically South Africa.

Featured Photo: Stari Most at Night, Mostar

Stari Most at night, Mostar Bosnia and Herzegovina

Mostar is the most beautiful city on earth and there is no place I wanted to be more on my birthday than here. We’ve just returned from a week in Bosnia and Croatia and it will probably take me a couple of days to get my head around everything we saw there. I will begin with the beauty first, because it was so abundant, and then I shall move on to the scars still visible twenty years later.

On this particular evening, we had enjoyed a marvellous Herzegovinian meal in the Šadrvan restaurant in Stari Grad, Mostar. On our way back to our hotel, we took a turn down past some ruined houses and watched the sun set over the bridge. It was incredible.

Do click on the photo above to see the full resolution.

Stick Figures, Aliens and Wild Creatures in East London

The big news in London is that master street artist Roa is back and he is working on a brand new mural in the Bethnal Green area. Roa is one of my favourite street artists of all time, along with Stik and Invader and I can’t wait to see his latest piece of work. 

We have some incredible street art in London, especially in the East End. This is a collection of ten photos taken during a recent walking tour with Jonnie from Bowl of Chalk.

Street Art LondonStik Pulley:  Leonard Street/Great Eastern Street, Shoreditch

I love Stik. I love how he manages to achieve such emotion and significance in line drawings and stick figures. I was thrilled to spot this new one running a rope through a pulley in Great Eastern Street.

Street Art LondonInvader: Drysdale Street, N1

Invader began his first invasion in Paris in 1998 and since then has conquered cities across the globe. I get unusually gleeful each and every time I spot one of his works.

London Street ArtSweet Toof: Ravencroft Street, E2

I don't think I've encountered Sweet Toof before but judging from this piece of work, I'd definitely like to see more. It is a pity that van was parked there because this creepy clown-like figure has the most exquisite set of teeth!

London Street Art InvaderInvader: Union Walk, E2

Another fine example of pixelated mayhem by Invader, this time in Union Street, E2.

London Street Art RoaRoa's Hedgehog: Chance Street, Shoreditch, E2

This is the second time I have spotted Roa's magnificent hedgehog in Chance Street, Shoreditch. I am a little embarrassed to admit that I thought it was a rat the first time I saw it!

London Street Art StikStik Mother and Baby: Hoxton Salon, N1

Another Stik, this time on Hoxton Square. I love this slightly nervous looking mother and baby.

Pablo DelgadoPablo Delgado, E2

Pablo Delgado is famous for his tiny little figures pasted onto bricks at street level.  It is really easy to miss them if you don’t know they are there and it is always a privilege to spot them.

Roa's HareRoa's Rabbit: Hackney Road, E2

I was quite convinced that this leggy bunny on Hackney Road is a hare but the general consensus seems to be that this is Roa's Rabbit. I love the detail that Roa puts into his creatures.

Stik ToleranceStik Niqab and Companion: Princelet Street, Spitalfields, E1

I love this famous Stik piece featuring a woman in a niqab holding the hand of her companion. This piece is located in Princelet Street, just off Brick Lane.

Roa's RatRoa's Beaver: Hackney Road, E2

Again, when I saw this stunning piece of art in a car park on Hackney Road, I was convinced that this must be Roa's Rat but apparently it is a beaver. I guess I can see that from the position of its ears and the shape of its snout.  Whatever it is, it is absolutely gorgeous.

Have you spotted any great street art lately? Who is your favourite street artist?

A Rainy Afternoon in Vernazza

On our first afternoon in Cinque Terre, we ran into a pair of local men just outside the train station in Riomaggiore. While we were enchanted by our surroundings, they were more interested in the fact that we had come from London. They complained bitterly about the weather, “it never stops raining” said one as we peaked out from under our umbrellas. I have to admit, I had been dreaming of a rather more sunny and warm Italy in April.

The thing is, the tiny little towns of the Cinque Terre look so good in the rain. Somehow, the gloomy skies bring out the colours in the buildings and a moody, dramatic air pervades the narrow streets and walkways. We spent one rainy afternoon in Vernazza during our stay and I absolutely fell in love.

Cinque Terre Vernazza

Vernazza Italy

The Cinque Terre

La Cinque Terre

Le Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre

Vernazza It

La Spezia Leguria

Vernazza La Spezia

Vernazza Leguira

Vernazza Leguria

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